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Secret Trunk Held Photo Treasure Trove

The decades went on. She lived hand-to-mouth by herself -- she never married -- drawing further and further inward. Friends would write. She didn't reply.

Then in the 1960s she met Mulholland. His family had her over for Christmas dinner once or twice. They would have long conversations, but she never mentioned photography. That was particularly odd, because Mulholland, a journalist at the time, had an interest in the subject.

"I guess maybe her former life was too painful for her or old history for her," says O'Connor. "But she did want her pictures to survive, which is why I guess she gave them to him."

After Watkins' death at the age of 85, Mulholland tried to create interest in her photos but with limited success. He arranged a gallery show in 1984. He sold some prints, the National Gallery of Canada being the most important of the buyers.

O'Connor saw the National Gallery's prints on display in the mid-'90s and was so taken by the work that she vowed to put together a book on the little-known photographer.

She contacted Mulholland, and he enthusiastically endorsed the idea, offering access to his extensive Watkins collection and writing the preface for the book.